Now that the dust has settled on the NFL Draft and the Jets have begun to sign their rookies, attention has turned to rookie mini-camps and who has a realistic shot at making the 53 man roster. Personally, I was very pleased with the draft haul; Mike O’Connor’s breakdown on Dexter McDougle, Connor Rogers’s breakdown of Calvin Pryor, and the selection of first round talent Jace Amaro in the second have left me feeling downright giddy.
What can the New York Jets do to close the gap on the New England Patriots? Last season with a rookie QB, the Jets and Patriots split and had a combined score of 43-43. The gap isn’t as wide as many may think. Plus, whereas the Patriots have stood pat on offense The Jets have added WR Eric Decker and RB Chris “CJ1K” Johnson to an offensive nucleus that already featured Chris Ivory and Jeremy Kerley. The Patriots added Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to shore up their secondary. Good moves, for sure. However, there is one move that John Idzik needs to make that will give the Jets a legitimate threat to not only compete against New England, but against the rest of the AFC contenders. That move? Trading for Wide Receiver Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans.
Andre Johnson gave an interview to the Houston Chronicle this week where, seemingly frustrated with being a part of another rebuild, Johnson voiced his desire to return to the playoffs and not waste away any more years of his potentially hall of fame career in mediocrity. I believe this stems, in large part, to Houston’s inability to draft one of the top quarterbacks in the draft as well as Johnson playing for his 4th head coach in 11 seasons.
While I do believe that Houston is not your typical two win team and could easily see them becoming the latest team to go from last to first in one season, Johnson doesn’t see it the same way. It became clear with his comments that Johnson wants out. Andre Johnson is coming off of his 5th career 100 catch season, went over 1,000 yards for the 7th time in his career, and has played at least 13 games 9 out of his 11 seasons. Wide Receivers with over 900 receptions, 12000 yards, and 60 TDs do not become available every day.
The last time a player of this caliber became available? Try Tony Gonzalez, who had just made the Pro Bowl again when his lifelong team traded him for a second round pick. Do you offer a second rounder? Yes, because Andre Johnson is THAT kind of player.
The Jets passed on DeSean Jackson, and caught a lot of flack for this despite character concerns raised about Jackson in the wake of his release from the Eagles. There are no character concerns like that with Andre Johnson.
He’s 32 years old, but wide receiver isn’t a position like running back where your body begins to break down as you near 30. Terrell Owens caught 277 passes and 39 touchdowns after turning 33. Marvin Harrison had 175 receptions and 18 touchdowns after turning 33. Art Monk had 210 passes and 16 touchdowns after turning 33 as well. And, if Johnson can duplicate what the aforementioned Gonzalez produced in Atlanta after being traded (428 receptions, 37 touchdowns), then a second round pick looks like a steal. A trio of Andre Johnson, Eric Decker, and Jeremy Kerley gives your second year quarterback Geno Smith three great route runners that feast on man-to-man or zone coverage.
Revis, Brandon Browner, and that Patriots secondary (amongst others) will have a hard time covering all three of them. Some have pointed out Johnson’s contract as a reason you don’t make this trade. A trade for Johnson is an immediate $11 million cap hit and only 10 teams in the NFL could incur that hit without an adjustment. The New York Jets are one of those teams.
General Manager John Idzik has done a great job replenishing the Jets talent level through the draft the last two off-seasons. Idzik has, also, done a great job of clearing the salary cap of toxic contracts with an extension looming for franchise player Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets currently have approximately $24M in cap space. After signing their rookies, they should have $17-19M left over. Trading for Andre Johnson still leaves them with $6M-8M in cap space. And, they are projected to have over $60M in cap space next season as well to extend both Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Kerley. This is a trade that won’t impact the Jets’ ability to resign their own guys going forward or be active players in free agency.
Idzik has refused to use the word “rebuild” when describing the Jets. A move like this, trading for a player like this, proves that he was right to not use it. Pick up the phone and dial area code 281 Mr. Idzik.